Every year His parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover.
I. THE PARENTAL CARE EXERCISED OVER JESUS. The pious pair, Joseph and Mary, went, as we are told, every year to Jerusalem to the Passover. And they had given the holy Child committed to their charge such advantages as Nazareth afforded. The home school especially, not to speak of synagogue services, to which he was doubtless regularly taken, evidenced their interest in the welfare of the Child. No sooner, therefore, has he reached the age of twelve, at which time little ones were deemed able to become "children of the Law," than he is taken up by them to see the Passover at Jerusalem. Their pious, consistent life was an excellent preparation for the solemnities of the great feast. Jesus came face to face with the ceremonies after experiencing most tender home care. And the history before us affords ample evidence of the parental consideration. If it was not perfect parental care, this is only to allow that neither Joseph nor Mary was sinless. Indeed, one of the German preachers bases an admirable discourse on parental duty upon this history, finding in it six separate hints upon it. But let us pause a moment over the care with which they must have explained to him all the ritual. Doubtless he saw more in it than they did, but he must have received gratefully their help in the circumstances. To them the Passover spoke of a great deliverance afforded to their fathers; to him it spoke of a great sacrifice yet to come. His insight must have been a deeper thing than they could then appreciate. And now let us pass to the oversight of which the parents were guilty. Their care was great, but it was not absolutely perfect. In the bustle of preparation for the home-going, the parents started with the caravan under the impression that he must be in the company of the boys who were in considerable numbers attached to the procession. They' should have made sure, and not left such a Child to the chances of travelling. We have no right to impute the separation of Jesus from his parents to any lack of dutifulness on his part, but solely to an oversight on theirs. What were all their bits of baggage and their acquaintances in comparison with the safe custody of "the holy Child"? And in consistency with this view, it has been suggested that underneath Mary's apparent expostulation and reproof there is a latent confession of her fault, which she and Joseph tried to atone for in their diligent search for the missing Boy.
II. THE LONELY BOY TURNED INSTINCTIVELY TO THE TEMPLE. The seven days of the Passover Feast had been a rare feast to Jesus. The priests and ritual and all the varied life which thronged the temple court must have been a revelation to him. He brought the consciousness of a Jew instructed in the Law to bear upon the temple and its services. We must look into his mind through the Old Testament. We there find the idea of God's Fatherhood in relation to his people several times referred to (Deuteronomy 14:1, 2; Hosea 11:1; Jeremiah 31:9, 20; Psalm 103:13, etc.). To the little thoughtful Boy, therefore, the temple was regarded as the home of him who was a Father to all who trusted in him. And this general idea of fatherhood became specialized in his deep, reverential musings, and he could not but feel towards God as no Jew had ever felt before. Whether he had as a Child the further revelation yet made to him of his peculiar relation to God as the Only Begotten, or reached this in the progress of the years, is what we cannot be certain of. At all events, the temple was the Father's house. To it the lonely Lad turned. He felt drawn to God irresistibly, now that his earthly guardians had gone away. "When father and mother forsake me," he could say, "the Lord will take me up." The orphan Child, so to speak, turned to the temple, as to his real home.
III. HE BECAME A HOLY LEARNER THERE. Not only was the temple the scene of the sacrifices; it was also the place of learning for those interested in the Law. Schools were established within the sacred precincts where the scribes discoursed to such pupils as chose to sit at their feet. The method seems to have been by dialogue - the question and answer which once were so prized. Here the Boy believed he would get light about the will of the great Father who dwelt there, and who had given his people the Law. As a faithful Son, he wished to get all possible light about his Father's business, and so he frequented the schools. He was a "model catechumen," as a suggestive writer on this whole passage calls him. Although he must have seen through the shallowness of some of his teachers, and had doubtless deeper insight than any, he was content to sit at their feet and get all the good from them he could. It was an instance, surely, of great diligence in embracing every opportunity of improvement which came his way. He wanted to learn all he could while he had the chance. And most naturally did his answers and questions astonish the doctors. They had never had such an apt scholar before. His insight led them along lines they never had traveled hitherto. And as for the Father's business, it at least embraces such elements as these:
1. The understanding of the terms of access to his presence. The significance of the ritual which was celebrated in the temple, the meaning of sacrifice, of bloodshedding, of incense, and of approach by the appointed priests into the Divine presence, - all this belonged to the Father's business.
2. The understanding of the meaning of his commandments. The Law as the expression of the Father's will, and read consequently in the light of love.
3. How far the knowledge of the Father was to be extended. The kingdom of God in its universal range, as distinct from a narrow nationality, - this was part of the Father's business. Hence the lingering of the holy Learner about the temple schools. His apt answers would procure him lodging and food during the season of separation his parents. Having put God first, all these things were added unto him (Matthew from Matthew 6:33).
IV. HIS RECOVERY BY THE ANXIOUS MOTHER. Joseph and Mary, on discovering at the end of the first day's march the absence of the Child, set out for Jerusalem to find him. They doubtless inquire all the way back, and then they go hither and thither through the city, and at last think of the temple. There, in the midst of the doctors, he is found and recovered by Mary. Her words are apparent rebuke, but really confession upon her part of the oversight. She had never before had any reason for fault-finding; it comes all the more surprisingly upon her now. Jesus defends himself on the ground that he was looking after his Father's business. In other words, he insists on putting God first, before Mary or Joseph. We get an insight into what godliness is. It means making God's business supreme. God claims first place, and this is what the Boy Jesus gave him. The Revised Version translates the words," Wist ye not that I must be in my Father's house?" This would simply refer to their folly in not first seeking him there. The Authorized Version is as near the Greek, and of wider import. But Mary and Joseph did not understand his meaning. These are the first recorded words of Jesus; and how they harmonize with the last, when on the cross he said, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit"!
V. HIS OBEDIENCE AND DEVELOPMENT. He has got all the doctors can meanwhile give to him. It would not have been profitable for him to have remained longer in their schools, and to have merely witnessed their powers of disputation. He is to have collision with them soon enough. Besides, he will be safer out of their reach in the quiet of the northern home. And so he recognizes in his mother's call the voice of his Father in heaven, and in the privacy of Nazareth his Father's business. He has to wait as well as work. Hence without a murmur he goes away with them and is subject unto them. But this subjection and reverence did not hinder, but really helped, his development. "He increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man." As a person under parental authority, he found his reward in wisdom, and became beloved of all around him as well as of the Lord above. It was a beautiful example to set us of being subject under God to parents and superiors. His growth in wisdom was also so considerate. He would take wisdom as others have to get it, gradually, and pass from the known to the knowledge of the unknown. And God's favor will rest as well as man's favor upon all who follow in the footsteps of his Divine Son in this beautiful subjection. There is no truth more important at the present time than this of realizing our development in due subjection. - R.M.E.
And when He was twelve years old.
(Biblical Things not Generally Known.)Psalm 121. and 122.) and see how wonderfully fitting are their words for that exulting singing which. . the pilgrims would encourage one another to give utterance to. "We can well imagine Psalm 122, being sung by the pilgrims when first the walls and palaces of the Holy City appeared in sight. The Gospel tells that when Jesus was twelve years old He was for the first time taken by His parents on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. You may be sure that He would take a boy's delight in the journey. It was one which would enable Him to open His eyes upon His Father's beautiful world, and to see beyond the blue mountains which always seemed so mysterious in the distance as He looked upon them from the vale of Nazareth. We may be sure that He would be on the look-out with all a boy's eagerness, for the first view of the distant towers of the Holy City. He would enjoy, too, the companionship of the other pilgrim-boys. There were, as the story itself tells us, many of His kinsfolk among the pilgrim band, and He would pass from one group to another, and be welcomed by all whom He approached. When the solemn days at Jerusalem were ended, the company of pilgrims started back for their homes. The Child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem. You all know how Joseph and Mary sought Him. I will not now ask you to contemplate the scene in the Temple portico, where He was at length discovered. It is a scene of great beauty, and one on which the thoughts of Christian teachers and Christian artists have reverently pondered ever since it has been described on the Gospel page. But the story of our Lord's pilgrimage is one on which our thoughts may well rest, one which we may well take to our homes and ponder over. We have in it an example set which we should never lose sight of. When twelve years old, children were considered old enough to go with their parents to the great worship of the whole year at Jerusalem. The way of the pilgrimage was made glad with songs such as would stir the young heart. In our Christian services, too, we ought to think of children just as did the dwellers in the Holy Land, in their Jewish Services. Again, all life long we should be conscious that we are but sojourners and pilgrims upon earth. "Here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come."
(H. N. Grimley, M. A.)i.e., before God) "as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground." And this opening of the rose is something like the opening of our Lord's human soul, when He reached the age of twelve. Up to that period the Gospel history is quite silent as to anything thought, or said, or done by Him. No doubt much was going on in His human mind; no doubt He had many thoughts and feelings, all of them holy, pure, and beautiful, the exact model of what a child's thoughts and feelings ought to be; but God has screened them from us, and not been pleased to tell us what they were. At twelve years old, however, the bud unfolds itself; our blessed Lord becomes fully conscious who He is; and we hear Him speaking and calling God His Father, and are allowed a glimpse into His mind and thoughts. And what beautiful fragrant thoughts they are! Do not estimate the importance of events, then, by the noise they make in the world. The events which startle us most are not always those of greatest consequence. Men often stare and gaze at that which is the least worthy of attention. What is it, think you, which interests the holy angels most? a great battle? a great triumph? the fall of a great city or a great empire? Rather it is the growth and progress of God's kingdom in the hearts of single persons — the battle against sin which this man is fighting in Christ's strength, the triumph over sin which that man is winning by Christ's grace; in a word, the inner life of men, the life of the immortal spirit — not that life which is acted in history, and related by historians. And the better and holier we become, the more shall we be interested in what interests God and holy angels.
Author of "Ben Hur."The herdsmen of Nazareth were ignorant and poor; still they complied with the law, and at ]east once every year went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. In the procession on one such occasion there was a family, the head of which was a plain, serious-looking middle-aged man, with whom the world has since become acquainted as Joseph. His wife, Mary, was then about twenty-seven years of age, gentle, modest, sweet-spoken, of fair complexion, with eyes of violetblue, and hair half brown, half gold. She rode a donkey. James, Joses, Simon, and Jude, full-grown sons of Joseph, walked with their father. A child of Mary, twelve years old, walked near her. It is not at all likely that the group attracted Special attention from their fellow-travellers. "The peace of the Lord be with you!" they would say in salute, and have return in kind. More than eighteen hundred years have passed since that obscure family made that pious pilgrimage. Could they come back and make it now, the singing, shouting, and worship that would go with them would be without end; not Solomon, in all his glory, nor Caesar, nor any, or all of the modern kings, would have such attendance. Let us single out the Boy, that we may try to see Him as He was — afoot like His brethren, small, growing, and therefore slender. His attire was simple: on His head a white handkerchief, held in place by a cord, one corner turned under at the forehead, the other corners loose. A tunic, also white, covered Him from neck to knees, girt at the waist. His arms and legs were bare; on his feet were sandals of the most primitive kind, being soles of ox-hide attached to the ankles by leathern straps. He carried a stick that was much taller than Himself. The old painters, called upon to render this childish figure on canvas, would have insisted upon distinguishing it with a nimbus at least; some of them would have filled the air over its head with cherubs; some would have had the tunic plunged into a pot of madder: the very courtierly amongst them would have blocked the way of both mother and son with monks and cardinals. The Boy's face comes to me very clearly. I imagine Him by the roadside on a rock which He has climbed, the better to see the procession winding picturesquely through the broken country. His head is raised in an effort at far sight. The light of an intensely brilliant sun is upon His countenance, which in general cast is oval and delicate. Under the folds of the handkerchief I see the forehead, covered by a mass of projecting sun-burned blond hair, which the wind has taken liberties with and tossed into tufts. The eyes are in shade, leaving a doubt whether they are in brown, or violet like His mother's; yet they are large and healthfully clear, and still retain the parallelism of arch between brow and upper lid, usually the characteristic of children and beautiful women. The nose is of regular inward curve, joined prettily to a short upper lip by nostrils just full enough to give definition to transparent shadows in the corners. The mouth is small, and open slightly, so that through the scarlet freshness of its lines I catch a glimpse of two white teeth. The cheeks are ruddy and round, and only a certain squareness of chin tells of years this side the day the Magi laid their treasures at His feet. Putting face and figure together, and mindful of the attitude of interest in what is passing before Him, the Lad as I see Him on the rock is handsome and attractive. When the journey shall have ended, and His mother made Him ready for the court of the Temple, He may justify a more worshipful description; we may then see in Him the promise of the Saviour of men in the comeliness of budding youth, His sad destiny yet far in the future.
(Author of "Ben Hur.")
(Bishop Chris. Wordsworth.)
(H. C. Trumbull.)
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